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The lines between networking and security are blurring, and specific initiatives have contributed to the growing overlap.
A recent webinar from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) showed that networking and security teams are aligning at an accelerated rate. EMA surveyed 304 IT professionals about their networking and security team operations, and almost 50% of respondents said their teams were either fully or partially converged. An overwhelming 86% said collaboration between teams had either somewhat or significantly increased, up from 76% in 2021.
Network and security team consolidation lets IT professionals enable strategies like cloud migration, IoT and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) in their organizations, said Shamus McGillicuddy, EMA vice president of research.
Network, security convergence drivers
Respondents reported several drivers that fuel collaboration between network and security teams, including automation, cloud and SASE.
Automation enables collaboration between teams
Network automation strategies ranked as the top driving factor of collaboration, with 40% of respondents saying so. For example, McGillicuddy said, when network professionals implement automation, security teams work with the network team to ensure compliance and prevent security vulnerabilities.
Cloud requires guardrails
Respondents also cited cloud as a driver for networking and security convergence. Approximately 31% and 28% said the use of hybrid and multi-cloud technologies, respectively, helped consolidate teams.
Public cloud is an area where network and security team interests align. According to McGillicuddy, many network professionals reported a loss of control over their organization's network as enterprises shifted to public cloud environments. Now, network and security teams are working together to take greater control of the cloud environment.
"Both groups lost a bit of control in the early stages of cloud migration," McGillicuddy said. "In more recent years, they're coming together to work together around cloud connectivity and security and establish some guardrails for how the cloud teams should operate."
Over 84% of respondents said cloud has either slightly or significantly increased collaboration between networking and security groups. The top areas of collaboration included technology implementation, security incident response and network troubleshooting, McGillicuddy added.
SASE combines networking and security into one architecture
Another 29% of respondents said SASE helped align networking and security teams. SASE combines software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) with cloud-based security services, so it could be in an organization's best interest if its network and security teams operated SASE architecture together. While most enterprises currently have SD-WAN technologies in place, many have started to evolve their environments to SASE, McGillicuddy said.
"When that happens, it pulls a lot of security into the WAN architecture," he said. "That's when [network professionals] need to work with the security group."
Most enterprises that deployed SASE have network and security teams that already collaborate. Almost 83% of organizations said collaboration between those teams either slightly or significantly improved as a result of SASE adoption.
Network automation, monitoring tools support unified teams
Network automation itself is an important driver of network and security team consolidation, but network automation tools also play a crucial role. An overwhelming 91% said network automation tools are valuable in facilitating collaboration. Respondents who said they had the most success with collaboration also said network automation is critical.
Top network automation use cases in a unified IT group include the following:
- Security incident response.
- Threat isolation and remediation.
- Network trouble remediation.
Network monitoring tools are also advantageous for unified teams, McGillicuddy said, because they provide insight into the performance and security of the environment. Another 86% said their organizations use specific network performance management tools that provide security insights.
Benefits, challenges of converged network and security teams
Network and security groups have slightly different goals and approach them in a number of ways, which could make consolidation difficult. Only 45% of organizations with combined teams said they have complete success with their combined teams.
McGillicuddy said unified teams face the following challenges:
- Data quality and authority.
- Budget conflicts.
- Architecture complexity.
- Skills gaps.
- Cultural resistance between teams.
When a proper consolidation occurs, however, successful network and security teams experience several benefits. More than 40% said they experience reduced security risks, have greater operational efficiency and are faster at mean time to resolution of network and security issues.
A converged approach helps teams gain greater insights about the organization's network performance and security posture. This supports management, monitoring and troubleshooting, which enable professionals to make informed decisions about the infrastructure.
McGillicuddy said organizations can take several approaches toward a unified network and security group. Regardless of the approach, organizations must commit to either a fully siloed or fully combined approach because partially converged teams experienced less success. As organizations continue to unify their network and security groups, enterprises should consider how a consolidation might benefit their business.
Deanna Darah is associate site editor for TechTarget's Networking site. She began editing and writing at TechTarget after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2021.